It’s time to take a look at the final Star Wars film in the main saga. It’s been a long road so we’ve been waiting quite a while for this one. This trilogy has definitely had a checkered history with the first film being pretty much a 1-1 remake of episode IV and V destroyed any semblance of Luke Skywalker’s character, but did give us some of the first fight scenes we had in a very long time. This one is definitely better than the last two films. It may not take the series to the next level, but it certainly has more positives than negatives and I would easily recommend it to anyone who wants a good action film.
The movie starts off by with the group scattered once again. The Empire is on the offensive as always and Kylo Ren is searching for even greater power. He has found a new spark of life for his army and they threaten the very universe. Rey has been training so that she would be ready for the next big battle and is closer to being a Jedi Master. This has caused her to not be as available to the resistance which does bring some apprehensive feelings from the other characters. Finn and Poe have done their best to locate more intel but they are heavily outgunned and need some kind of backup support. Can the resistance rise up to overthrow the empire or have they finally hit their limit?
Right away one positive in the film is that it has a very fast pace. Something is always happening and we get to cover a lot of ground. There aren’t a whole lot of action scenes or at least it feels that way, but the ones we do get are very good. Whenever Rey and Ren face off against each other you are sure to have a good fight. The series still isn’t nearly as good at the battles as in films II and III which is a little odd since those are so old, but the battles still hold up. I always like hearing the lightsaber effects and how they are designed as well. The Force abilities are also pretty versatile and can be used in many ways. The film did a good job of incorporating them into the action scenes.
Luke Skywalker actually didn’t look terrible here which is already a point above the last film. He seemed like his old self and I was glad about that. It’s always fun to have cameos from the older characters through their force ghosts although some of them can be a bit much here. One character in particular was a bit iffy since he really shouldn’t have the ability to become a force ghost compared to the others. We can assume that they let him in and it’s not like the rules are totally set, but it did feel a bit cheesy. It does help make this finale feel a little more special though. We get to see almost every important character and location in the series.
One of the film’s weaknesses is that it’s a long movie that does feel long though. In part this is because the cast can’t hold their own scenes as well as the original characters. Rey does a good job as the lead, but Poe and Finn aren’t quite as exciting in the B plot as Han Solo was back in the day. We get to see a lot of nice backdrops in various scenes, but the scenery does add up which also gets attributed to the feeling that the film’s lasting a while. It’s probably a tradeoff that is unavoidable to feel like a LOTR epic, but I think the film could have shrunk the length down a bit or maybe focused more on Rey and thrown in some more fight scenes.
As always Rey is a great lead. In this film she is really struggling with her past a lot and trying not to go to the dark side. It’s a good internal battle and Rey tends to make the right decisions. I do think her friends had a point that she was taking too long training when they could use her on the front lines, but the training did allow her to stay on par with Kylo Ren so without it I wonder how she would have fared. Rey not come out on top every time, but she always fights hard and it’s nice to have a Jedi who is trained so well for a change. It feels like a long time since we’ve been to this point. The scene of her dragging down a ship was impressive the likes of which we haven’t seen since Starkiller.
This is one of the best parts about the film in general. It’s great to see Rey as a Jedi Master who is pretty confident and knows what she is doing. I’d like to see her go rogue a little more and just wreck the enemy, but she shows us enough so we know what she is capable of. We haven’t seen someone as powerful as her since episode III so it’s been a considerably long time. The fun part is when you think about it she is way stronger than even someone like Darth Vader just going by the films, but his appearances came before the effects got to this point so it’s not totally an equal comparison.
Unfortunately Finn didn’t bring his A game this time. I found him to be pretty annoying in a lot of scenes where he acts like he knows Rey better than Poe. Whether that is true or not he comes across as pretty obnoxious. One scene in particular is when he accuses Poe of not understanding Rey and when Poe asks him to help get this understanding, Finn just doesn’t bother helping out. It’s like telling someone that they don’t know the right answer and you do, but then not giving it to them when asked. In general I thought Finn was giving Poe a hard time throughout the film when it wasn’t really deserved. Poe was actually quite solid here. He got the shaft in the first two films compared to the other two so it was nice to see him take more of an active role here. Poe is probably the closest we would get to Han Solo so it’s nice to have another hot shot pilot like him.
Meanwhile we’ve got Kylo Ren on the villain side. I still can’t take him all that seriously without his helmet because of how beat up he always looks. The guy can still fight though so ideally this should be enough to get you on his side. While I can’t go into detail on his character too much, I thought his portrayal here was pretty good. I consider it to be an improvement over how he looked in the last two films. His first scene in the movie is probably his best one though even if he made the wrong call in the end.
Part of why most of the characters are at their best here is because the writing is pretty solid. We get a good script with some nice humor included. Most of the characters make the rational choices time and time again. The villains are constantly in-fighting while the heroes keep using their bonds to get through tough times. It helps their resistance feel a little more realistic even if they probably should have been completely wiped off the map by now. I already covered the fights, but the effects in general are really great as well.
Princess Leia is one character who I felt had no real purpose in this film. She was one of those characters who was just here for nostalgia along with a bunch of cameos. We got a flashback scene with her and I feel like it should not have been included because it just makes her look terrible. The reason why she gave up something boils down to her being scared of the future and that’s always one of the worst reasons to abandon something. She also made some wrong calls with regard to certain secrets so overall she really didn’t help the troops much at all.
One interesting concept that the film dabbles with is how the force can allow you to be in multiple places at once and transcend space/time. It seems like an interesting take on the astral plane because in a way that’s how the characters are connected. It was cool to see how they would effect different places at the same time. One point where I don’t see how it worked is how both characters got a lightsaber at the end and you’ll know what scene I’m talking about when you watch the film. It’s possible one was on the ground, but if the force duplicated it then that might be stretching things a little bit. Otherwise I think this ability still makes sense and is effectively a further demonstration of the usual force ghost abilities.
It does always make you wonder why the heroes don’t use this more often to mess with the villains. It opens up an interesting can of worms since the heroes could have easily ruined the villain’s plans a lot sooner if they would act in the real world more. One of the novels explained why they do not, but most of those are not canon anymore so I’d like the films to address it at some point. The power levels are pretty good for the most part though so I don’t really have any issues there. The soundtrack is good as well even if a whole lot of it is really just re-used from older films. I’d like to start seeing some new music in any future films going forward.
It’s hard to pick what the best scene in the film is, but mine is possibly when two characters are struggling for control over a ship in the distance. It’s a really nice scene showing how persistent both characters are and was one of the best portrayals of their individual strength as well. It was also the right move for the hero to do there instead of retreating or following. Just grabbing the ship made the most sense so long as it was a feasible option and that’s exactly what happened. One scene where a character made the wrong move is when someone rightfully mentions that they should consider a potential counter and as he is going into detail on why they should think about it he gets silenced. I guess some people just don’t want to win….
This film has a little romance although fortunately not much. Unfortunately it wasn’t handled well at all. This doesn’t feel like a natural progression considering how much animosity was between the two characters. It’s great that they could move past this so quickly of course, but jumping to the next step was a bit soon. Time was of the essence I suppose so it might have been more of a gesture of friendship with one person feeling bad for the other, but no matter how you slice it I couldn’t really give this part a thumbs up.
Rise of Skywalker has a pretty satisfying ending that deals with everything more or less. There is one missed opportunity in my opinion though. One character gets one last line to end the film with and if it was one word different it would have been amazing. It would have probably been pretty controversial as well, but sometimes you gotta take some big risks. This isn’t a negative though as it’s a purely subjective change and either way it works well enough.
So, where does Rise of Skywalker rank overall? Well, I’d put it above pretty much all of the films except III which ages better each time and IV. It’s tough with V, Rogue One, and VI, but I may have to actually put this one above those. Here’s the thing, those films had a more interesting setup and better characters, but I would call this the stronger film. I’d sooner rewatch those in part because it’s been a while, but if we’re comparing initial viewings then I would have to pick this one. So initially I thought this was around middle tier, but this would actually put it near the top.
All in all, this third trilogy is the strongest one. It may have had a slight dip with the middle film, but it didn’t have any bad installments either. I still think the worst thing it did was basically make all of the old films pointless with the reveal in VII that the Empire is back, but after that it recovered well. I think it’ll definitely live on as a nice trilogy for new viewers who don’t necessarily want to go back to the older days. I am interested in seeing new films come out with a fresh cast and all though. One thing I still really want is more Jedi and Sith battles. I’d like some high end battles like in Episode III. This one had some good battles, but there was still nothing even close to the level of those.
Overall, Rise of Skywalker is a solid way to wrap up the Star Wars series. I think I covered about as much as I could without heading into spoiler territory. I won’t call it a great movie because despite the fast pacing it wasn’t always super engaging. I think in part this is because the big emotional moments don’t really land. Seeing some guest stars and throwbacks to the past is always fun and all but I wouldn’t call any of these scenes particularly powerful. The action and effects should still keep you busy though and the film is technically sound. The writing is good and at the very least you can see how there was a lot of effort put in here. I’d recommend checking this film out whether you are a Star Wars fan or not. You should be able to jump in and quickly understand what is happening thanks to the helpful opening text and the fact that the basic plot (large scale) is easy enough to understand. It’s a war and the empire is the evil side.